Former top-level hurling referee Pat O’Connor has called on the GAA to follow rugby’s lead by introducing a citing commissioner, claiming Adrian Tuohy and Austin Gleeson should both be suspended for next month’s All-Ireland final, writes Eoghan Cormican.
Limerick man O’Connor, who took charge of the 1999, 2001, and ’03 All-Ireland senior finals, wants citing powers awarded to the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) after Galway defender Tuohy and Waterford forward Gleeson escaped sanction for interfering with opponents’ helmets during their respective semi-finals.
It emerged yesterday the CCCC were dissatisfied at having been denied the opportunity to investigate Gleeson’s tug of Luke Meade’s helmet during last Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final. Referee James Owens, in his report, deemed he had dealt with the incident and, therefore, no retrospective action could be taken against the 2016 hurler of the year.
O’Connor believes Gleeson knew full well what he was he doing when grabbing the faceguard of Cork’s Luke Meade and the same with Tuohy.
“If Tadhg de Búrca is given a red card and misses a game, the other two [Tuohy and Gleeson] should follow suit. They should have been reprimanded, absolutely,” insisted O’Connor.
“If a player puts his hand near an opponent’s helmet, surely to God he knows he’s in contact with the helmet. Last Sunday, Gleeson certainly closed his hand around the faceguard. Both players knew they were catching onto a helmet. There was no question that they didn’t know.”
O’Connor wants a citing commissioner put in place so incidences such as those which arose over the past two Sundays can be investigated by Croke Park top-brass, irrespective of they being mentioned in the referee’s report. He doesn’t believe the introduction of video analysis would diminish the role of the referee, nor lessen their authority.
“If a referee, linesman or assistant referee misses a particular foul, like in rugby, there should be a citing commissioner. There are assessors up there watching GAA referees. Why isn’t there a citing official up there, too, bringing these instances to the attention of the CCCC? I understand the CCCC went back to James Owens after his report was submitted. Instead of putting the onus back on the referee, if the CCCC had an issue with how a particular incident was dealt with, they should have the power to deal with it themselves.
“In rugby, the citing commissioner doesn’t show the referee in a poor light. Things can happen in a game that go unnoticed by a referee. It has happened to myself. It has happened to every referee.
“For it to come about, a motion would have to be brought to Congress. It would absolutely benefit the game.”
A red card and subsequent one-match suspension is the punishment for players found guilty of a category III (iv) infraction, specifically “behaving in any way which is dangerous to an opponent, including deliberately pulling on or taking hold of a faceguard or any part of an opponent’s helmet (in hurling)”.
O’Connor is adamant that a red card is too severe a penalty. Interfering with an opponent’s helmet, he added, should be downgraded to a yellow card offence.
“The colour of the card for a helmet infringement should be the immediate focus of GAA chiefs.”
O’Connor, who has taken charge of All-Ireland minor and U21 finals, said it never crossed his mind while whistling an All-Ireland semi-final that he would prevent a player from lining out in an All-Ireland final if he showed him the line.
O’Connor said Owens was correct to red card Waterford’s Conor Gleeson for pulling across Patrick Horgan.
“It is not the referee’s job to think for a player. [Conor Gleeson] pulled across the Cork player and, therefore, he is gone for the final. I’d be surprised if Waterford are successful in appealing his red card. He struck with the hurley.”
The 1996 All-Ireland SHC final referee, Pat Horan, claims Owens made the wrong call when sending off Conor Gleeson. A yellow card was sufficient, he remarked.
“When I was refereeing, the late John Moloney always told me: ‘Pat, put the rulebook in your back pocket and use common sense.’ If I had seen the Conor Gleeson incident, I would have used common sense and given the two lads a yellow,” said Horan
The Offaly native disagrees with O’Connor that the CCCC should be given the power to penalise players retrospectively.
“I’d leave the rules as they are. I sent off Brian O’Meara [of Tipperary] and Liam Dunne [of Wexford] in the 2001 All-Ireland semi-final. I didn’t see the incident. It was my linesman who brought it to my attention and told me they struck one another. I lost out on an All Ireland final because of it and Brian O’Meara lost out too.
“If I had seen the incident myself, I would have given a yellow. In my report, I put them down, not for striking, but for dangerous play. I couldn’t put them down for rough play, as I had sent both of them off. Croke Park saw the footage and my report. If [Croke Park] had felt it was too severe, they probably would have rescinded it. The GAA backed my report but still didn’t give me the All-Ireland.”
That Tipperary’s Fergal Horgan and Cork’s Colm Lyons comprise the shortlist to referee the Galway-Waterford decider on September 3 pleases O’Connor. No Munster man has been appointed to officiate the final since Waterford’s Michael Wadding in 2010.
“I’d be delighted to see either one of them in there. It is about time a Munster man got back in there.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.